One of the most important things modern youth need from parents today is wisdom which is often confused with opinion. Human opinion may be informed by wisdom (lessons and insights from life experience), but it always offers limited understanding of a person, situation or circumstance and often contains a fearful desire to be in control – which breeds hostility and resentment. While wisdom is the divine capacity of our mind to focus on the thoughts that bring about peace and empower self and others. To that end, the best way to instill discipline is with wisdom which enables us to help one another correct thinking and behavior with hope.
In our Fresh Start Family Culture training, we help families strengthen relationships by sharing wisdom and to that end we feature the thought behind the one mustard seed of faith that makes a free society possible: that every person has been granted intelligent life and free will by the same Creator, and this is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, drug or device. It is like saying to yourself and your child, “you are already free and empowered, and my job is to help you defend your liberty.”
Discerning opinion and wisdom
Prior to the internet and mobile connectivity, parents could rely upon conventional wisdom expressed in social norms and formal roles with ascribed authority (such as parent, teacher, coach, president) to communicate and enforce standards of conduct. Cyber connectivity has changed the way in which we perceive authority and, today, effective parenting has more to do with sharing their authority as a trusted resource, rather than simply enforcing social norms and relying upon the formal authority of roles. Cyber connectivity has changed the parent-child dynamic because with mobile devices every individual has the power of one-to-many mass communication which means that children do not perceive parents and teachers as their source for authority, but they do seek to relate to the parent as a trusted resource to impart wisdom.
This new reality has created a power crisis in the home for two main reasons. First, it is easy to believe that you can simply google anything you need to know, so parents and teachers and elders in general are perceived less and less as primary resources for understanding and information. In fact, many youth do not perceive that their parents can relate to their childhood experiences, and fear judgment. And secondly, knowledge without wisdom is dangerous – for knowing about something and knowing what to do with that information so you are not harmed and are blessed – are two different things. Exacerbating this circumstance is that our pre-internet parenting paradigm features complete reliance upon formal authority: “because I said so and I am the parent, my child obeys or else”, and in recent generations, there is a belief that because our children have inherent goodness, they cannot be persuaded believe and act on things that are far outside our own family values and there is a reluctance to recognize and correct behavior that inspires hate and shame. One dramatic example is the Wisconsin girls who attempted to murder a classmate and blamed it on the Slenderman meme they encountered on-line, all the while the parents were aware but still clueless (as explained in a recent HBO documentary). Read more here…
Recognizing the difference between human opinion and wisdom:
- Human opinion can be informed by wisdom, but is always limited understanding and often motivated by fear- which seeks to be in control of others and is hostile.
- Wisdom involves seeking and choosing thoughts that inspire us to take charge of our own minds to bring about peace, and ask questions of ourselves and our children that will teach us more about the limiting thoughts associated with our fears so we can choose not to give them power. In this way we are all learning executives.
FRESH START EXERCISE:
TRAINING YOUR MIND TO TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR THOUGHTS
Here is an exercise to help us gain clarity about the difference between our opinion and wisdom.
- Think about something in your child’s life that causes you worry.
- Write down the thought behind that worry. (For example, I am worried that my child’s lack of interest in school will limit his ability to pursue an education and earn a good living.)
- Now write down the opposite thought of the worry thought. This will stretch your mind to consider the possibility that your worry is not true, even though you perceive there is evidence to the contrary. (Example: my child has been equipped with everything he needs to learn how to make a good contribution to society and he will be a good provider for himself and his family.)
- Then ask yourself, which thought do you want to give power to? Whatever you think about is what you give power to. Make a mental note to meditate on the thoughts that are the opposite of your worry thought.
The premise of this exercise above is that when we think about thoughts that come from the mind of God, who is love, then we are not giving power to the negative experiences and thoughts in our present circumstances that inspire anxiety and worry.
This does not mean that we are to ignore our concerns. Rather, we are to put them into the perspective of a mindset that declares that the victory has already been won, so we ask for direction and do not lean on our own limited understanding (human opinion).
Consider this: When we let our worries and fears govern our hearts and minds, then we are actually agreeing with the things that we do not want. And our children pick up on the worry signal from our hearts, and will be less inclined to share what is happening, and then we cannot bless them with our wisdom.
My two cents: This exercise, to train the mind to hold captive every thought and manage it to a greater good, is how I understand by my own faith what it means to “hold captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). This means we translate a fearful thought into a hopeful thought in our own mind. When we do this, and teach our children to do the same, then we can show up like the face of hope when our children are struggling, and ask questions and gain dialogue that will enable “breakthroughs” from limiting, fearful thoughts in our hearts and minds.
Restrictive motivation v. constructive motivation. Taking charge of the thoughts that are in the main stage of our minds, defining our life narrative, is how we can empower our children with constructive not restrictive motivation. Let us consider a couple of concepts in Steven Campbell’s book on Making Your Mind Magnificent: Flourishing at Any Age (2010) and his portrait of “restrictive motivation” which is fear-based motivation, and constructive motivation, which is positive and empowering. The message in restrictive motivation is “If you don’t do this… you will fail.” Or “Do this…. Or else”. There is a fear of a threat that limits our capacity to be open to creative thought and learning. Some of the consequences of restrictive motivation are: procrastination (putting things off because you do not feel good about yourself), slovenly work (doing the task without joy or commitment), and creative avoidance (finding reasons to not do something). To the contrary, “constructive motivation” recognizes free will and affirms that there are very few “have to’s” in our lives. It is a matter of perspective and thought leadership. Example: “I get to pay taxes so I can enjoy paved roads, safe drinking water, and public safety in my community.”
So our aim as primary teachers for life is to keep our minds focused on the thoughts that inspire constructive motivation: that bring about peace and empower ourselves and our children to not let the current disappointing, concerning, negative or unpleasant circumstances dominate our thinking.
About: We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your donations are greatly appreciated. (Donations are payable to Banana Moments Foundation).
Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and consultant on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. She is a former technology executive trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, a mother of two grown sons, and an author of books for practical guidance on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture. As a family and technology culture advisor, Joanna has appeared on 103.9FM The Fish, 710AM Keeping Faith in America, 1380AM The Answer, and Examiner.com.